Pregnancy is the first phase of a beautiful, lifelong journey for both mother and baby. But before their adventure begins together, there are often a number of challenges a mother-to-be needs to overcome. In this post, we will look at the numerous benefits of prenatal yoga, and how it can help prepare women better for a smoother pregnancy and labour.
The challenges women face during pregnancy
Pregnancy can give rise to numerous physiological and psychological obstacles, so it’s important for women to equip themselves with all the right tools, to help them deal with what may lie ahead.
With the onset of pregnancy, the most prominent alteration women have to deal with is in added body weight in the uterine region. This causes in a shift in the body’s centre of gravity, and also significantly weaken the muscles in the abdomen. As a consequence of this, women may have to contend with pain in the hips and the lower back. A well-curated strength exercise routine, that focuses on the body’s core, can provide the right preparation for these changes.
Hormonal changes can have a significant impact on a pregnant woman’s physical wellness. Two hormones in particular, relaxin and progesterone, are critical to a healthy 9-month term. However, they can cause the pelvic muscles to loosen, weakening the abdominal region. As a result, a regular exercise routine is typically not an option for women who were active before pregnancy, as they may face considerable discomfort and even risk injury.
In addition to these physical challenges, there are a number of potential mental health problems women may have to brace themselves for as well. According to study by the WHO, symptoms of depression affects around 10% of pregnant women globally, and this number swells to about 15.6% in developing and emerging countries.
Given all the challenges associated with pregnancy, women may be advised to explore as many solutions and safeguards as they can, even before the start of their first trimester.
What is Prenatal Yoga?
Quite simply, it is a carefully chosen set of yoga poses, designed to provide pregnant women with a proactive and holistic approach to physical wellness. In the course we offer at Mindhouse, the sequences of postures are curated separately for each trimester, to help women prepare their bodies effectively for pregnancy and to cope with the physical and mental rigors of the 9-month term.
Now that we’ve answered the question of what is prenatal yoga, let’s take a look at some of the varied benefits it can provide to both body and mind.
The Benefits of Yoga while Pregnant
Prenatal Yoga poses help Strengthen the body
Research has shown that the benefits of prenatal yoga plans, when customized appropriately, are not only applicable during the pregnancy, but can extend to labour as well. Yoga during the first trimester of pregnancy, before the “baby bump” begins to show, is the best way to prepare the body for the imminent changes it will have to encounter.
The majority of this needs to be done in the core muscles, as they will be utilized the most during pregnancy, as well as during labour. Even routines of simple stretches can go a long way towards improving the durability and elasticity of the spine, while also reinforcing the hip joints. Specific prenatal yoga poses that target the abdominal region also improve blood flow to the region, helping to prepare the uterus better for the upcoming weight gain.
Yoga during first trimester of pregnancy to stay physically active
Doctors will generally advise expectant mothers to abstain from their normal exercise routine. Anything that engages the cardiovascular system too heavily can pose a health risk, and exercises that place any sort of strain on the belly can risk endangering both the mother as well as the fetus.
However, without sufficient physical activity, women can run the risk of developing a number of different problems. While gestational weight gain is normal during pregnancy, a lack of exercise can elevate this weight to an excessive amount. Women also need to be wary of developing deep vein thrombosis, as this can sometimes result in blood clots loosening and getting lodged in the lungs.
Carefully curated prenatal yoga poses can help provide women with a safe and holistic way to build a steady exercise routine, right from the first few weeks of the first trimester, to keep them active. Simple postures can aid better circulation throughout the body and maintain good cardiovascular health, lowering the risk of developing any of the aforementioned conditions.
Breathwork to enhance physiological functions
Breathwork sessions can provide excellent additional benefits, and act as an effective supplement to any prenatal yoga poses. In certain cases, the respiratory system can be an inadvertent casualty of pregnancy. As the uterus expands, the diaphragm is pushed upwards, and this can place a certain amount of strain on the lungs, as well as the respiratory tract as a whole, affecting the woman’s ability to breath normally.
Well-regulated breathing exercises can go a long way towards helping to boost physiological functions, like steadying the heart rate and strengthening the lungs, guarding against these potential issues. They can also help to restore overall breathing patterns, ensuring better fetal and maternal health.
Relief from common pregnancy-related complaints
Not every problem a woman faces during pregnancy is necessarily threatening in any way, but there are a number of niggling issues that may crop up repeatedly throughout the duration of the term. Common discomforts include nausea, pain in the lower back, insomnia, and even carpal tunnel syndrome.
One of the many benefits of prenatal yoga is that it provides a multifaceted approach to mind-body wellness. By enhancing circulation, all these seemingly minor issues can also be minimized, and it can help prepare women better physically as well as emotionally for any further problems they may face.
Psychological benefits of prenatal yoga
Given the life-altering nature of pregnancy, it is not uncommon for women to feel occasional pangs of anxiety and stress during the 9-month term. There are numerous variables to consider when embarking on the journey of pregnancy, and then motherhood, and for some, it can sometimes be a bit overwhelming.
High stress levels during pregnancy can further contribute to problems like high blood pressure or heart disease, which can affect the health of both the mother and the baby. This is where Breathwork can be an especially useful technique. Carefully regulated breathing exercises can have a calming effect on the mind, helping to combat the effects of stress and anxiety, and ensure a smoother pregnancy.
Despite all these varied benefits, it’s important to know what yoga moves to avoid when pregnant, to help you prevent potential harm to you or your little one. On that front, we’ve got you covered.
What yoga moves to avoid when pregnant
Certain strenuous yoga poses should preferably be off limits for any mother-to-be. For instance, as the 2nd trimester begins, and the first signs of the “baby bump” appear, it’s advisable to stop doing any poses that involve twists in the abdominal region. The baby begins to grow at this stage of pregnancy, and these exercises can be damaging to the health of the growing fetus.
While the bow pose is ordinarily a great way to strengthen the spinal column, it involves lying on your front, and after the first trimester, this is another pose that you should avoid as far as possible.
Other bends and stretches like the forward fold, can also place a strain on your belly, and its advisable to use modified versions of these poses, if you must do them.
The numerous benefits of prenatal yoga poses and breathwork can provide women with the tools they need for a healthy pregnancy. Every journey into motherhood will come with its own obstacles, but implementing a an exercise and meditation routine that maximizes the benefits of prenatal yoga is the perfect way for you to overcome them with ease, as you prepare for the beautiful new life before you.